Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Back to School READY!!!

All summer long I've gone in once every two weeks or so and unpacked my room and worked on various projects.  Open House is tomorrow night, so today was THE day to finish.  I worked like a crazy person at home yesterday with a massive to-do list in preparation for today.  Here's how it all turned out :)

From my door
Usually, I just write the CW/HW/Target on the board...
but, I'm really excited about how my signs turned out :)
Jobs with 6th graders...not sure about this.  Gonna try it out.  Some jobs are specific for 1st period only (lunch count, Channel One manager) or for specific periods (calendar manager), and finally all period (supplies, paper).  I put it right next to the dry erase board so I could just write the student's name on the board...and as I write this, I've thought of a problem.  Like for all periods, how am I going to have six different names...hmmmmm, gotta think about this one some more.
I've literally never had a calendar in my classroom.  I've always thought that it is such an elementary thing.  But, with the needs of my students, I feel like I am teaching elementary...and after reading TONS of blogs, I'm feeling pretty good about that.  At my own house, I have a calendar on my fridge that I mark off each day to keep track of where we are at, and it helps my 4 year olds follow, along those lines I needed something to help my students follow along with the calendar instead of just seeing a bunch of numbers.  So, I decided I would paperclip a star to whatever day we are on.  Hopefully that will be a visual cue as to which day we are on.  I'm not big on counting straws, nor do I want to manage that (especially with so many different classes).  So, I saw on pinterest somewhere the number rings to flip.  Going to see how that goes.  I'm going to use the calendar and days in school to go along with our calendar math.
This is my newest addition to my class.  Super excited about my bright tubs which came from Big Lots, and are super durable.  I'm really going to focus this year on visual cues/reminders for students, hence the sign on the wall.  All of the composition notebooks have a sticker of varying colors to help me check quickly that the notebooks are in the right tub.  Example:  All of the ISN for 1st period has an orange sticker on the spine with packaging tape over it to ensure it stays :)   the little plastic boxes were $0.99 from Walmart and have my manipulatives for each table group.
I'm starting to implement Brummett Bucks this year as a reward system to hopefully motivate my students.  I teach special education and intervention classes, and in all honestly, these kiddos can be hard to motivate.  Hopefully this will help :)  I am using the rewards cards that I picked up in a Flash Freebie from Mandy Lopez over at   My BFF is the EBD teacher at my school.  She questioned me hard "How do they earn them?"  I felt I needed to have two categories: definite ways to earn a buck, and get caught to earn a buck.  We'll see how this goes...I've never tried anything like this before.
And, finally, two things here:  1) half a sheet of felt to use as erasers this year instead of using  I HATE that, so I vowed to come up with something else.  Luckily, the people on Pinterest are waaaay smarter than me.  That lovely idea came from Pinterest.  2) My boards were nasty (so I cleaned them) and were difficult to erase (which compounding the nastiness).  I read on, of all places, Pinterest to spray some WD-40 on each one and rub in.  It repairs the boards...we'll see how it works.  It seemed to do make erasing easier when I tried it.  My BFF's board is AW-FUL!!!  I told her about it, and we figured no harm, no foul.
Excited to start putting some faces with the names I've been reading this summer :)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back to School Goals

Back to is my last full day at home before I have to be on the go this week(finish up classroom, school shopping, doctors appointments).   Next Monday starts official work days..cannot believe it is already here.  I'm excited about going back and being in a routine, but I LOOOOOOVE being able to go to the bathroom when I need to go.

Anyways, today's post is linked up with I {heart} Recess for the Back to School Goals edition :)

Personal:  I am a much happier and patient person when I have ample 8+ hours.  Functioning on 6 hours = a tired and cranky teacher, which doesn't help my kids at all.  I need lots of sleep and lots of patience with three resource math classes and three math intervention classes.
Organization:  I am a data nerd!  I love data.  I love to analyze data.  I love to help my kids analyze data so they can improve.  I teach special ed, so data is critical.  I teach interventions, so data is critical.  I am notorious, however, for letting my IEP data back up a couple of weeks, and having to play catch up.  It takes FOREVER to play catch-up, and will take even longer this year with 30 IEPs to manage.
Planning:  I know what I am teaching all year, with specific learning targets for each day.  I am a HUGE planner....except when it comes to the nitty gritty of the next day.  I wait until the night before to plan my math lessons.  With three preps this year, that might prove to be a daunting task.  My kids are always engaged and definitely learn, but I just have such a hard time pre-planning.  I can't wrap my brain around a lesson that is three days out when I have today's lesson to teach.
Professional: Kentucky is rolling out a new teacher evaluation system based on The Framework for Teaching by Charlotte Danielson.  Find out more HERE.  It truly is an exciting time to be an educator in Kentucky.  Talking about teacher effectiveness makes me SOOOOO excited because it is critical for student learning.  I was selected as a Hope Street Group KY State Teacher Fellow and am a part of giving teachers a voice in regards to the Professional Growth Effectiveness System (PGES).  HSG is a national organization that I am super pumped to be a part of...learn more HERE.  In order to help teachers understand PGES and get their feedback, I've got to know it like I know the back of my hand. 
Students: Teachers sometimes forget that these little people sitting in their seats are just that, little people.  They have brain farts (especially middle schoolers) and act goofy or forget a pencil.  I'm going to remember that my kids are 11, not 25.
Motto: Since I teacher special education and interventions, it is critical that students develop a concrete understanding of mathematical concepts.  So, one of my favorite movies is "Field of Dreams." So, my motto is an adaptation from the move quote, "If you build it, they will come."  Every day in every lesson I'm going to try to remember my adaptation: "If they make it, they will learn."
Now, on to tackling my FINAL to-do list of the summer...

Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday Made It

I am in under the wire.  It is still Monday.  So here goes...

I don't have any great pictures of my Monday Made It project because its not really that pretty to look at, but is SUPER important to me as a busy mom and teacher during the school year.  It's my recipe book.  Doesn't sound very impressive, but it is critical so that I can make sure I don't cook the same thing every week.

Here's how it goes:  Start with a this one from Office Depot.
And add page protectors like these from Office Depot
Then, I put all of my recipes for meals in one binder, and then a separate binder for side items, desserts, etc.  My recipes are a wreck...basically just written on a piece of copy paper as I find them on the internet or when a friend talks about what they made for dinner last night.  I have twin 4 year olds to feed and a husband, and while they aren't picky eaters at all, they don't want to eat the same thing all the time (nor do I). 
So, I've had my binder for a while, and it is on my counter within easy reach...I use it at least 3 or 4 days per week.  It is also my MUST HAVE for the week. 
But the problem that has driven me C-R-A-Z-Y  for a while is the disorganization.  My recipes are just in the binder all mixed up.  So this week, the last week of my summer va-cay, I separated them by meat: Chicken, Beef, CrockPot, Other.  And that's where the Monday Made It comes in.
My old and improved recipe binder:
This is definitely not the best picture ever :(  And the sad thing is I really had to work to get this picture.  This is definitely my Must Have for Monday!  And with school starting back, its time to dust it off and get it back into use.
Thursday is Open House...yikes!   The goal is to work from home tomorrow and then go to school on Wednesday and put the final touches on it :)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fav Fonts

At some point, I saved THIS in my favorites on my computer.  While having some free time this evening, I found it in my list of favorites.  It is a linky for favorite fonts!!!!  And, if you are like me, you are OBSESSED to the max!!  I've even turned my BFF to fonts this summer :)  I count that as a success!  Check out some of these blogs that have linked up.  I've found more than 20 new fonts that I want to get...and I'm nowhere near finished through all of the link-ups.  The linky is from 2011, so bummer that we can't join in :(

And since my summer is wrapping up (much quicker than I had hoped), here's three pics from here lately.
My first veggies out of my garden.  I didn't get it out until the middle of June, so I'm excited that it is FINALLY producing :)  Might have a tomato next week...just in time for school to start.

Date Night!

My two girlies trying not to give me a really good picture

Monday, July 22, 2013

IXL Cards & IEP At a Glance: Manic Monday

Today, I'm linking up with Classroom Freebies' Manic Monday!  Love seeing what other teachers have in their classrooms :)

I am really fortunate that my school has bit the bullet and purchased a license for all 330 6th graders for next year.  This is our second year using IXL.  With struggling learners, the number one thing that I've learned is that they need many many more repetitions than average learners.  IXL is a great tool to use in a resource class and intervention class because I can find SOOOO many skills on a variety of levels and can individualize the practice for students.  We've had Study Island in the past and it drove me CRAZY that I couldn't back it down grade levels for struggling learners because we only had the 6th grade license.  With IXL, you have access to the entire website!  This is great for gifted students to work on more advance skills, as well as great for students with severe disabilities because they can work on basic math skills.  Cannot say enough great things about this website!

Here's the downfall:  Each student has their own unique log in.  Most logins are just the first letter of the student's first name (not what they go by) with their last name.  Add into that they may not go by their first name, or there may be two students as "jsmith."  It just gets confusing, and my 6th graders are not the best at remembering their IXL log-ins. 

Problem Solved: I decided to make cutesy little cards for them to reference.  I am going to write their log-in on it and then tape them into the front cover of their ISN.

For you:  Click HERE to download your freebie.  Paper from Ashley Hughes on TPT.  Font is Hello Recess which you can see here

And, to help myself be more focused with managing my students' IEPs, I made this At-A-Glance to record my students' information that I am ALWAYS looking up in their IEPs.  So, HERE is my At-A-Glance that I whipped up tonight.  Gotta start reading some IEPs this week....only have 30 to get familiar with :)

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
I only have two more Saturdays left of summer break...sniff, sniff :(

Monday Made It

Today, I am linking up with Monday Made excited to show off my biggest project in my classroom!  Last year, I was graced with an 8 foot long white table in my classroom.  Have no idea how I got that lucky, but I'm not complaining :)  I gave me a TONS of storage underneath, which I was thankful for.  The down-side: looking at it all.  It bugged me all.year.long :( This summer, I vowed to do something about it.

Here is the before:

So, I went to Hobby Lobby and searched and searched for fabric that would fit in my classroom.  My decoration is just bright and certain colors or theme.  Just colors.  But, I had found these great tubs at Big Lots to store my Math ISNs in, so I needed something to coordinate.
After scouring the racks at HobLob, I found a green fabric to match.  Thirty dollars later (which was a hard pill to swallow), I walked out of the store...wish I had known about teacher discount :(

I do not know how to sew.  I own a sewing machine.  It was a gift from my grandmother.  It has been sitting in my floor for a year.  It has never been out of the box.  I decided this was not the time to learn how to sew.  SOOOO, I resorted to using stitch witchery :)

I "sewed" all of the edges of the fabric to have a nice looking edge.  Took quite awhile because I am MAJOR OCD!
But, here is the final product:
Oh yeah!  Just walking into my room makes me breathe a little easier...until I realize I only have two weeks (14 days) until school starts back :(

Monday, July 15, 2013

Common Core 6th Grade-I Can statements

If you are like me, you are easily lost and confused with all of 'weirdness' of the Common Core State Standards.  Over two years ago, my department was handed the standards and told to deconstruct the standards into student-friendly "I Can" statements.  There weren't any models or examples for us to look at.  Nor had anyone already deconstructed the standards.  MAJOR STRESS!!!

After teaching Common Core for two full years, I think that we have simplified our original work and finally have a decent grasp on the standards.  If you are a sixth grade teacher, I am sharing our deconstruction HERE.  This is a word document, so it can be edited, rearranged, or whatever to fit your needs.  You will see our pacing with the number of days for each unit.  We have two math classes at our school, one that focuses on numbers and algebra while the other focuses on geometry and statistics (half year class).  The "I Can" for each unit are not necessarily in the exact order I would teach them, but they are all there.  The standards are to the side so you can match the "I Can" back with the standard.  Below is a preview.

Hoping for a great year with you and your kiddos :)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

TPT and Hope Street Group

I am soooo excited :)  I just checked my phone and saw a message from TPT--MY FIRST SALE !!! 

I have for sale two items...I know, watch out!  One is a set of add/subtract two digit whole number place cards, and the other is a set of matching cards of base 10 models, word form, and standard form of numbers.  Check it out at my store:

On another note, I have been MIA from blogging because I have been at a conference this week.  I was selected to be a KY State Fellow for the Hope Street Group, which is a non-profit group that is focused on changing the United States through education, health care, and jobs.  Obviously, my part is involvement in education.  The group has partnered with Kentucky Department of Education to get teacher feedback on the new teacher evaluation that is piloting this year.

How many times have you said (or heard someone say) "those people in ___ don't know what they are doing!  They are just making decisions for teachers without knowing how it affects them or kids."  I know I have!  Being a part of this group is an amazing opportunity to give teachers a voice with the lawmakers and decision makers in the state, and I am excited about changing the face of education.

KY was the first state to roll out the Common Core, and the first to assess on it.  We didn't have any materials or any other states to look to for guidance.  KY also was able to get a waiver from NCLB because of the adoption of CCSS, as well as revamping teacher evaluations.  KY is one of the first states to change the way evaluations are done, shifting from a checklist of "meets expectations."  The whole point of the evaluations is to help all teachers be more effective. 

I have actually written an op-ed article and was published this past week.  Check it out here:,0,5118697.story?page=2

Thanks for reading :)  Have a happy Sunday!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Made it Monday/Manic Monday Link-up & Freebie

I am linking up with Made it Monday at 4th Grade Frolics to share what I've been up to this past week.  Be sure to read all the way through for a freebie :)

  It has been raining non-stop for days.  With 4 year olds, this is not a good combination. 
First, we made popcorn.

Then, we use the foam shapes (with adhesive backing) to make a collage.

Then, we made faces.
I found this on pinterest, and decided that it would be a wonderful project, so I took paint and watered it down.  Used a dropper to drop the watered down paint to drop on the paper, and then used a straw to blow it out.
Blow paint monsters. Thin some tempera paint with water. Drop small amounts on paper - then use a straw to blow the paint across the page making "monster" shapes.

And then finally, I went to school and made this for my classroom.  I've always just used the plastic shoe boxes from Walmart to house these supplies.  It has driven me nuts, especially this year.  I just had to do something different.  I had seen the "File, Copy, Grade" drawers but knew that was not for me.  So, I used paper from Ashley Hughes and font from Hello Literacy to make this three-drawer label for my supplies.

I had to trim off a little on each side to get it to fit snug.  They are black on the file, but look great printed on colored paper.  I LOVE the way they turned out.  I have matching group buckets with the same dots and fonts.
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
And, for making it all the way through this long post as part of Manic Monday at Classroom Freebies, I am offering these labels for {FREE}!!!  The freebie includes the three drawer labels (plus one blank one), dull/sharp pencil labels, as well as group labels for up to 8 groups.
Be sure to follow this blog on BlogLovin by clicking the button at the top right of the blog :)  And, if you download the freebie, please leave me a comment :)
Thanks for reading this long picture-filled post!  Have a great Monday :)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Apple a Day {LINKY}--Homework & Freebie

I am linking up with Leigh at The Applicious Teacher for this week's edition of "An Apple a Day."  This week is focusing on homework...a dreaded topic for kids and teachers. 
First, I teach middle school, 6th grade to be specific.  Homework looks different in middle school than it does elementary, that is for sure.  My school's policy is that homework for all subjects is less than 45-60 minutes per night, and cannot count more than 5% of the student's grade.  The 5% is a humdinger, especially since my principal decided (good idea/bad idea...I'll let you decide) that we are not grading in categories (test, classwork, projects, etc) but rather just in points.  Everything is dumped into one category.  Makes it rather difficult to manage the 5%...

So, to manage homework, I decided several years ago that it wasn't going to count for a grade.  I know the question: how do you get them to do it if it isn't for a grade?  Well, my school has built in free time on Fridays called "Funky Friday."  By not turning in assignments, students miss this Funky Friday.  Sometimes, its not so effective, so I have to be creative with individual students. 
So how much homework do I give?  I teach resource-pull out math to special education students and math interventions to regular education students.  Two groups who need maximum supports to do homework.  I generally give homework two nights a week, and it typically only takes them about 10 minutes to do.  Usually it is skill-based practice such as multiplication facts or what we are practicing in class.
Collection?  Ugh :(  What a nightmare.  Whether it is in a whole group or a small group setting, there is no good way to collect homework/go over it/check it in my opinion.  I usually do not check it out loud in class because I only have about 45 minutes for my lesson once kids get in there and settled.  I have a spreadsheet that I use to mark who has their homework laid out on their desk.  While kids are filling out their agendas and getting materials ready for the period, I walk around and visually inspect their homework looking for completion and general correctness.  (In my head I know the answers because the assignment is short).  I just want to get a feel for how the student did with it, and ask questions of the students.  I learn a lot from this, and can gage if I need to re-visit the concepts or if the kids are ready to move on.  I generally do not pick up their assignment from their desk.  I am not going to grade it, so there's no reason to clutter my desk with it.  It usually stays in their math binders.
Below is a fun {FREEBIE}activity that I did with my kids focusing on graphing in all four quadrants.  It was practice for the kids, and made a fun display for the hallway. 
Blank 4 Quadrant Grid

Be sure to leave me some feedback if you download my freebies :) And while you're hear, be sure to follow my blog on Bloglovin (button's at the top of the page).
Happy 7/7 :)

A few ramblings...

First, I would just like to say thank you to each person who has clicked on the "follow" button :)  In a week, I have more than tripled my followers.  That excites me to no end, knowing that there are people who are interested in what I have to say.

Second, for all of you math-y people, I realized that I have never shared where I am at with the Common Core.  I teach in Kentucky, which was one of the states to adopt the CCSS.  And being the awesome state that it is (said semi-sarcastically), it was the first state to implement the CCSS AND assess from the very beginning!  Talk about pressure. Most states used a 1-2 year implementation schedule to deconstruct standards and plan instruction.  Not the good ol' Bluegrass :/  I am the math department chair at my school, and have done LOTS of work with the CCSS (learning targets, building tests, extended response items, etc.).  We have the Glencoe Math text book that is more like a workbook than a text book, which I love, but am definitely not glued to.  I hope that through this blog I can help fellow math-y people with the CCSS.

Third, I have been catching up on my DVR tonight by watching the Jodi Arias story on Lifetime from earlier this week.  Girl is C-R-A-Z-Y!!!  OMG!!!

Fourth, it has been raining almost non-stop for DAYS.  In the first six days of July, we have had almost five inches of rain, with about another two inches due on Sunday.  And, just when everyone thought that the Ark is coming, here is a photo of a double rainbow my brother took this evening :)  I would really appreciate the rain stopping so that my 4 year olds can go out to play.  We did manage to squeeze in a walk between the rain to let out some of the cabin fever.  My Made It Monday link will show a couple of the projects we've done this week to stay entertained...movies, Ipad time, and coloring will only last so long. 

Thanks for reading :)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Favorite Pin Friday Linky!

It's finally Friday...doesn't have quite the same ring as it does from August to May.  I wasn't even sure what day it was when I woke up this morning.  What a problem to have :)

Today I'm linking with The First Grade Parade for Favorite Pin Friday!
Be sure to link up and show those pins that you've spent this week pinning.  I know my followers probably gag when they see my name :)  I am OBSESSED!!!!  The only rule:  please make sure to link back to the ORIGINAL poster and not to Pinterest.

For my house...My husband has over 300 softball shirts, plus all of my shirts.  They all end up like drawer #1.  I had a HUGE ah-ha moment when I saw drawer #2.  I immediately went and fixed my drawers like this.  It has revolutioned my life :)

For my kids...I have 4 year olds, so this project kept them busy for about 30 minutes.  In my opinion it was success.  They didn't turn out nearly as cute as the original did, and I had to keep my OCD/perfectionist at bay and just let them do it.  They had fun :)  Sorry this pic is ginormous.
germ blow paint
And for my other kids...Equivalent fractions is HARD, like insanely hard.  As part of our work with equivalent fractions, I saw this pin and knew that I needed to have this in my classroom.
Have a great weekend!